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Fact or Fiction? The Truth about Dental Implants



Many patients are frightened by the thought of having to receive a dental implant. However, there is no reason to fear! With a knowledgeable Prosthodontist, your dental implant experience can be a less scary procedure.


1. What is a dental implant?

There is a lot of confusing information out there about the true nature of a dental implant. The best way to describe a dental implant is that it is a titanium root form (think of the bottom of the tooth that’s under the gum) that gets inserted into the jaw bone to replace a missing tooth or teeth. The “tooth” you see on top is actually a crown or bridge. You cannot see a dental implant with your naked eye. It will be our little secret!


2. Are there different types of implants?

a. Yes! The implant industry is a billion dollar industry with new manufacturers trying to create the cheapest implants with increased quality and longevity. Although it may seem like you are saving money with a low cost implant, you run the risk of complications that can require you to replace your implant down the line. Many patients who choose to use a low cost implant are also shocked to find out later that the manufacturer has gone out of business leaving the patient without any way to purchase restorative parts. Working with an experienced Prosthodontist is crucial to ensure that they use their knowledge of the field to select a high quality implant that will last you for years.


b. Implants should last you a lifetime. Low cost implants placed in your mouth will last approximately fail immediately or within 5 years.


c. Low cost implant failure can include loss of implant itself, infection in the jaw which will lead to pain, swelling, bone loss in the jaw and the adjacent teeth.


d. To remedy a low cost implant, the implant needs to be removed, infection needs to be cleared, multiple bone grafts and tissue grafts need to be done, in addition to replacement of the implant. Despite all these efforts, the final prognosis of the implant can be guarded due to the fact that implant is now primarily in grafted bone.


3. What are dental implants made of?

Dental implants are made of 99% titanium. Researchers have discovered that titanium is incredibly biocompatible, which means that your implant will fuse with your bone! Humans have been trying to find the perfect material to create dental implants since even back to the Mayan times. After centuries and centuries of attempting different materials (archeologists have even found evidence of implants made from gold and jewels) titanium implants were discovered on accident by an orthopedic surgeon who was testing rate of blood flow in bones via a device that was made of titanium. To his surprise, when he attempted to remove the titanium device he found that it was integrated fully with the bone. Hence, the term osseointegration was born!


An alternative to titanium implants are zirconium implants that are used in high aesthetic areas, like the front of the mouth, as well as for the patients who have allergies to metal or patients who do not want metal in their bodies.


4. Will my body reject the implant?

Nowadays, we have come a long way from accidental integrations and ancient gold Mayan implants. Dental implant technology has advanced to the point that dental implants have a 98% success rate.


5. Who can be a candidate for implants?

Almost any full grown adult that is in good health can be a candidate for dental implants. Children should never get dental implants because they are still growing which can cause major complications with the implant. Also, adults that are immunocompromised should not get dental implants. Possible complications can also arise for a patient whose diabetes is not under control. Smoking also greatly increases the risk of the dental implant failing.


6. Who is involved in the implant process and what happens during the implant process?

a. The implant process requires a two specialty team: a prosthodontist and either an oral surgeon or a periodontist. First, the prosthodontist evaluates the patient and determines the number of implants needed and the location of the implant. The prosthodontist then creates a surgical guide that the surgeon uses to precisely place the body of the implant. Second, the patient returns to the prosthodontist to get a crown or a bridge put on the implant.

b. During the process the Prosthodontist uses her specialty and expertise in aesthetically creating a natural smile for her patient which includes, measuring the face as a whole, lips, distance of nose and mouth to make certain that your new smile compliments your face.


7. How long does the implant process take?

There are two possible scenarios when it comes to the dental implant process. The first scenario is when the patient has an adequate amount of bone and the implant is simply placed in the bone. This process will take four months from the start to the completion of the restoration. The second scenario is when the patient does not have an adequate amount of bone and he or she has to go under a bone grafting procedure. This scenario will take an average of six to seven months from the start of the grafting to the completion of the restoration.


8. Is the implant process painful?

The amount of pain that results from the implant process can vary significantly based on the number of implants the patient requires. A single implant placement is about as uncomfortable as a simple filling. From my personal experience, after I had my implant placed, I took my son to the park and I had zero pain or discomfort (see, even dentists get dental implants, hahaha!). However, if the patient requires multiple implants, the implant process can require putting the patient into what is known as “twilight sleep.” Twilight sleep is where the patient breathes on his or her own and responds to commands. However, the patient does not remember the procedure and does not feel pain.


9. Do I need an implant for each tooth that I am missing?

No, we can place implants strategically to support multiple teeth.


10. How do I care for my implants?

Although the implant does not decay, it still requires meticulous oral hygiene and professional cleanings and checkups. If you do not properly care for your implant, it can lead to a serious complication called peri-implantitis, which is a disease that leads to bone loss around the implant.


11. Do I need to replace my implants? How long do they last?

Your implant should last your entire lifetime, unless you do not properly care for the implants. As stated before, meticulous personal oral hygiene and regular professional check-ups and cleanings are essential to the longevity of the implants.


12. How much will an implant cost?

Insurance can partially cover the cost of the implant; however the cost can vary depending on the location of the practice. The total cost of the implants is two parts: the first part is the surgical implant placement and the second part is the restorative component (such as a crown or bridge). If you are interested in learning about pricing, you can always contact our office to set up a consultation.


13. Will I have sensitivity because of my new implant?

The dental implant is made out of titanium so a properly placed implant into healthy bone will feel like a natural tooth. An excellent implant is one that you don’t even notice!


14. Will my new implant set off metal detectors?

Not at all, the only thing people will be able to detect is your beautiful new smile!

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